Monthly Archives: August 2010

Protection of Minors for Dummies

Today I went to a nearby supermarket to buy some bread. At the checkout the line was stalled by a group of 10 years old boys trying to purchase Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. I know that they were 10 year old because one of them said “he’s 10 years old, I’m 10 years old, so together we’re 20 years old”, probably because that’s the sort of argument that is likely to work in children media that are more appropriate for 10 years olds than GTA, which over here is rated 16+. But, of course, the 10+10=20 was not their main pitch. It was “my father has allowed it”. To which the cashier, who looked to be in his twenties and generally somewhat shy and awkwardly taken by the situation, at first correctly replied that it doesn’t work that way and the father needs to be personally present for that. And so the little boy produces his cell phone, dials his father and tells the cashier to ask him. The cashier, understandably weirded out by the entire situation, talks to the alleged father (maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t, who knows), explicitly asks and receives permission and sells a game with good reason rated 16+ to a handful of 10 years old boys who proceed to behave exactly like a bunch of kids who just successfully stole a lollipop.

The following is what I wish I’d told the cashier when it was my turn in line, except most of it – as usual – formed in my head when I was walking back home already.

Selling the game that way was against the law. Let us, for a moment, leave aside my own personal moral reservations I always felt towards the GTA franchise. Let’s leave aside that this, if any, is probably one of the games least suited to be in the hands of children not even old enough to be called “teenagers”. Let’s just look at the legal part.

The person on the phone may or may not have been the father. Even assuming it was, he may or may not also be a legal guardian. Assuming he was, he may or may not be aware of the nature and content of the game in question. He may or may not be drunk, on drugs, or generally give a fucking shit.

The attentive reader may at this point be objecting that most of these points do not really change with the physical presence of the father in the store. In fact, the only thing that changes is that the father receives the opportunity to actually personally inspect and evaluate at least the information printed on the cover – about the content and the proposed age restrictions, for example. But while this is a very, very, very important factor, the other possible factors still remain uncertain. It’s not like the cashier is going to ask for a birth certificate and a written brief essay on why the father considers GTA to be an appropriate medium for his son – and, importantly, for several other children whose parents now get effectively bypassed in their right to allow or disallow their child to consume that content.

What’s the difference? The difference is crucial. Not understanding the difference led the cashier to making the wrong decision. When a game (film, book, beverage, whatever) is purchased by a minor in the presence of an adult, it is not the minor purchasing the game, but the adult. It is a huge difference in legal responsibility that renders the above questions moot.

The law forbids anyone but the legal guardian(s) to grant minors access to rated media. Even after having received permission via phone, the cashier still sold the game directly to a minor, thus granting him access to a rated game, thus committing a felony. If, on the other hand, an adult – any adult – who accompanies the boy purchases the game, the responsibility passes on to that adult. If he is not actually the father, then it is him – and not the store – who is committing a felony by passing the game to the boys. If he is the father and grants access to the other boys without consulting their legal guardians, it is, again, him who is breaking the law.

By selling the game to an adult – and this is what is taking place when a child purchases something in the company of their parent(s) – the store passes the legal responsibility on to the purchasing adult. By selling the game to a child – which is what you do when you play along to a “permission via phone” – the store breaks the law.

The sad thing is that mishandled events like this make you understand a little bit more where those people are coming from who claim that rating is not enough but everything needs to be censored and forbidden. In the end it’s always the irresponsible actions of adults.

And it was such a good attempt

In 1997, Nintendo in cooperation with a large department store chain organised a German National Mario Kart 64 Championship. What you may not know is that I qualified for the final round. I had a Nintendo 64, I had the game, thus plenty of opportunity to practice plus a somewhat skilled hand at racing games in general. How I fared in the final round? Didn’t get there. Don’t know if it was simply bad luck, but it’s entirely possible it was a result of my off-the-scale nervousness, but the morning I was supposed to get up and drive to the tournament, I instead got up with fever and abdominal pain in my right side. And in my family you immediately know what that means: appendicitis – soon confirmed at the hospital, where I spent roughly the next week post operation. During that time Diana had her fatal accident. Which is just coincidence as far as I know! A friend who has been visiting that competition later told me that the winner time was worse than what I’ve been regularly clocking in in practice – of course, practice and competition is not the same, as very evident in this very example.

However, this is not about nervousness possibly screwing up with competition results. This is about what I mentioned fleetingly – practice. Technically I’ve just been playing the game and enjoying it, while also apparently being pretty good at it. Until I heard of the competition, at which point I began to practice the specific track the qualifier would be held on (over the course of 5 days). Often together with the aforementioned friend. In fact, we had a bit of a geographical competitive advantage, as I was living just a few bus stops away from the department store where the qualifier took place, so we could even go as far as drive to my home, practice a little more (new techniques we’ve seen for example), then drive back and perform again. I’ll spare you further tales of our prowess and the dramatic competitions that took place. I won.

Back to the topic of practice. You see, when the competitive criterion is a timed solo lap, then all you’re actually practising is driving a perfect lap, finding the exact amount of risk you can just barely control, hitting the shortcuts in the exact sweet spot when they win you the most time and slow you the least down, firing the boosters when they yield you the largest effect. Also, as it’s solo, you can restart any time. Combine perfection being the only viable goal with the unlimited restarts available (not in the competition, of course, but in training), and you immediately end up restarting the moment you make a mistake – any mistake. The entire training process is all about evaluating “how far can I go”, and once you screwed up, there is no way for you to evaluate the rest, so you can just as well abort and restart. After a mistake the rest of the lap is worthless. It’s a waste of time.

This led to the emergence of the self-deprecating “and it was such a good lap” saying between my friend and me. You see, it makes sense to say that when you’ve been driving at the top of your awesomeness and then two turns before the finish you lose it and crash or swerve. But with the increasing perfectionism you more and more often end up aborting early into the race. Very early. Like when you botched the start. And thus when you had a good start, you already had something to lose. And then the thumb would twitch slightly in the first turn and we’d restart saying “and it was such a good lap” … and then we’d realise how ridiculous what we just said was, which was when the saying became self-deprecating and we took to using it outside of that context, for when you abandon something without having properly tried it.

Connection to WoW? Oh yes! Wipes. Called wipes and failed attempts. Some people – a lot of people – believe that as soon as a wipe becomes inevitable (and indeed in most cases you know you’re going to way before you do), one should do the efficient thing: stop dragging it out, die and restart. Sometimes people can even get quite upset about not doing that. They feel their time is being wasted. Technically, they are right. After the point where it becomes apparent that the attempt is going to fail, all additional time spent is spent unnecessarily. Like those laps that just won’t give you what you need after you’ve made a mistake. Abort and restart.

Except when you say “screw it” and drive out the botched lap. Just because, you know. And maybe you’ll try something on the way, free of pressure, and maybe it’ll teach you something. I picked up a number of valuable clues while finishing worthless laps just for the sake of it. Similarly, yes, it’s going to be a wipe, but sometimes it can be just fun to see .. I don’t know .. how long you can survive anyway, or how far you can take it. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have some idea along the way. Maybe you’ll learn something. Not very probable, but possible.

I don’t like called wipes very much. Oh, I do appreciate the occasional collective jumping off the edge of Arthas’ platform in a “you won’t get us!” gesture. But when you start doing it too liberally, there’s a point where part of me wonders – was that really necessary? Or was it “such a good lap”? Where does one draw the line? Again, I’m not saying it’s always the wrong thing to do. Often enough it’s the right one, and often enough I’ll still be calling for just that. One just has to be careful and not start calling wipes due to overzealous perfectionism. I shall try to be careful. And we should try to be patient. It is said to be a virtue.

Pure nonsense

Just listening to Digitally Imported:

This track is the hottest thing to come out of Russia since the Moscow heat wave!

I know what I’m doing here is borderline Twitter-quality, but I found that line hilarious :D

Ordinary nothing

Last night (more like “this morning”, the conversation went on for quite a while) we logged out on the rings above the Violet Citadel. We’ve been briefly talking about how from great height, Dalaran looks just like the curious busy city it is supposed to be – you can’t see people exchanging inappropriate remarks in /s and /y, no mammoths dancing on mailboxes, only the “big picture”.

Today I logged into the game and…

[20:34] Carilyn gasps at you.

A Blood-Elf was sat there, quietly watching over the world. We exchanged a few generic friendly emotes and then, as the rings are apparently “part of Dalaran” and you can’t invoke your flying mount up there, I hearthed down to the inn. First thing I read in chat?

[20:36] [Y] Holycrystals: lol


King of Queens on WoW guilds

Caught an episode of King of Queens during lunch today. Doug and Carrie had their bed break under them. So, for the period until the new one would be delivered, they got old single beds from a friend. Putting them together didn’t work because they were on wheels, so they ended up “sleeping in different beds”. And it turned out to be awesome! Doug could turn as much as he wanted without disturbing Carrie’s sleep, when they wanted to get husband-and-wife-ey, they’d “visit” each other and it would be exciting, everything was fresh, new and optimal. Suddenly they discovered that they are very happy with it!

Soon they went to the cinema and couldn’t agree which film to watch, so they got this idea – since it worked so well with separate beds, why not go in separate films? It’s dark in there and you won’t be talking much anyway, so what? And then they went to separate places to eat, because they have different tastes. And then they started thinking about going on vacation separately, because they have different interests. And so on.

“There’s nothing wrong with our marriage just because we sleep apart, don’t share our tastes or free time activities!”

No time wasted for compromise, for thoughtfulness. You do what you want, you make the best of your time, and if both make the best of their time, then together they’ve made the best of their cumulative time. A perfect partnership. Or is it? Of course, by the end of the episode they realised it just couldn’t work that way. Doing what you want just isn’t that much fun if there’s no one to share it with, if no one you truly care about is there to do things together with, even if they’re not the things you love doing absolutely most. They missed each other. Optimising everything for yourself runs the risk of ending up with only yourself for company.

So, they got their new bed and slept happily ever after. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to conclude what this has to do with WoW guilds (or any other game communities, for that matter). I’ll just ask: do you truly believe in the whole being greater than the sum of its parts?

I love you, Charge

You know I’m a big fan of our mobility. Yesterday, I got to love it even more.

We’ve been having our first serious and prepared looks at the Lich King. We took two attempts at him before, when we finished off Sindragosa with still half an hour left on the clock, but those were really more oooh-and-aaah attempts than serious ventures. They were useful regardless, as at least we got an idea of how things look and feel. So, serious Arthas action yesterday. To foreclose – no, we didn’t kill him.

During one of the attempts, when the first phase transition was about to end, I started running in a bit too soon and blundered right into a frost sphere, which went “wheeee!” followed by “kaboom!” and sent me flying towards (and beyond) the rapidly disintegrating edge. Wipe, right? Except, I was still targeting the raging spirit I was tanking, and in a reaction that was really more reflex than conscious response hit my Charge button. Swoosh, back to safety and “hell yeah!”

PS: Defile is certainly one of the more impressive and literal ways to wipe.

PS PS: I’m kind of glad there is no realistic way for me to charge off the platform. Now that would be exceptionally hilarious, wouldn’t it? :D

That’s not even a spoiler

Reading WoW news sites these days is a mixed bag. I like to keep up with the game/class mechanical changes and developer intentions, but I don’t want to know anything about “that awesome quest chain or raid dungeon in which you get to see those awesome places”. I want to be awed by the latter as I do it, based on a solid foundation as provided by the former. So I scroll a lot and stop where I see something of interest to me.

Today I was scrolling through when my eye caught the headline “Cataclysm Beta: New loading screen gallery”. I stopped a few turns of the mouse wheel later and went back to check that I saw right. A loading screen gallery!? Seriously? You mean, those images we’ll be staring at in boredom and impatience for 2 years need to be pulled out and stuck in an effin’ gallery well in advance so we don’t miss out on this incredibly fundamental and important aspect? Really!?

That’s not even a spoiler. That’s just silly.